Tag Archives: mindfulness

JKZ’s Challenge

Wanted to throw this quote down…try picking one question per week to focus on. And the main idea behind it is how does your body feelnot just the action:

“On the other hand, you might also be mindful of positive thoughts and feelings as they occur. How does your body fell when you see obstacles as challenges? How does it feel when you are experiencing joy? When you are trusting others? When you are generous and showing kindness? When you are loving? What are the effects of these inner experiences of yours on others? Can you see the immediate consequences of your positive emotional states and of your optimistic perspective at those times? Do these influence other people’s anxiety and pain? Is there a sense of greater peace within yourself at these times?”

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Filed under creativity research, meditation, science

David Chang: Vegetarian Korean Dishes

This is a short one…

Korean nuns + yogic sun salutations + 26 banchan 반찬 + humbled pork-celebrity chef = joy…Did a random google search on Korean vegan food and came across this article, and now have decided summer goal #1 = making a full on veggie/vegan Korean meal.

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/david-chang-vegetarian-korean-dishes

Here’s some random fun yoga flows that I learned this week and wanted to share so you can experiment:

Speaking of experiments…I’m reading up on mindfulness meditation by reading the most foundational book on it by Jon Kabat-Zinn, written in 1990 (“Full Catastrophe Living”). He speaks of how our minds and bodies are vehicles for experiments, and how approaching mindfulness meditation should be like an experiment. I love that philosophy because it’s in line with my experiences in neuroscience, in cooking, in yoga (the yogis who sat around for years testing out poses/mudras/chants), now Clover Fast Foods, where I’m interning. They like to call their restaurants/food trucks more of a Food Lab, inspired by Ayr Muir (founder) and his scientific/engineering background. Experiments are awesome. So don’t follow a strict yoga schedule and sequence all the time – experiment, mess around, break out of the routine and suddenly go into a ragey dance mode. It’s all yoga, really. [check sources where I’m slowlyyyyyyy updating on mindfulness.]

Mindfulness Meditation #1: Breathing for 3 minutes

To experience the pull of the thinking mind try this experiment. Close your eyes, sit upright, and become aware of your breathing. Don’t worry about how you are breathing but instead let it happen and be aware of it, feeling how it feels, objectively witnessing it as it flows in and out. You can notice how the air feels through your nostrils, or going down your windpipe, or where your body inflates/deflates.

If you start thinking about how bored you are or if you start thinking about what you should really be doing, let the thought/feeling be there and note to yourself what thought/judgement you just had. It’s kind of like keeping a mini diary. Then simply let go of it and bring your attention back to your breathing. Finish after three minutes and reflect on how much your mind wandered or not. Most important: no hating on yourself! It’s just a fun experiment you can practice everyday.

Sad news: no more Sandrine’s. I miss the group dearly, but I decided that I wasn’t interested in working with meat at this time. But I’m definitely not sick of work in the kitchen and learning more about cooking, tasting, and techniques. According to my friend, the onions I diced for our Indian dinner were pro (cut onion in half, then slice parallel but don’t go all the way, cut the onion half into two layers but don’t go all the way either, and then finally chop chop chop perpendicular to the first cuts). I owe my new skillset to Sandrine’s super sweet chef Carlos, who I don’t have a photo of, but looks so similar to Iron Man (but older a la George Clooney) that I think I’ll just use his photo instead. Hope he doesn’t mind.

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Filed under Mindfulness, postures, science, yoga

The Imaginative Neuroscientist

How could reading a book from the Romantic period give headway for a cognitive neuroscientist? How could the an analysis of the line “It was impossible to melt her dream so he melted into hers” be infused into an article published by a neuroscientist? Where does one etch the hard lines in the brain to define imagination?

Alan Richardson, a professor at BC and a Harvard PhD, loves romanticism.

The concepts of perception –> memory –> imagination is so dear to him, so beloved. But then, during a seminar I attended today, a literary modernist cited Henry James and how the facilities of imagination is a feedback system: it isn’t just perception –> memory –> imagination. Our imagination also shapes our perception. And neither person cited scientific papers…yet.

I found this idea interesting because we already know biases shapes our perceptions (regular peeps vs. monks and doing tasks where rationality would be the most effective, but most people’s biases interfere). But the idea that imagination could shape our perception and experience of the world shook me slightly. I reflected on the ideas in Qi Gong and in bioenergetic healings and visual metaphors in meditation and how imagination can alter reality (like actually though. Qi Gong breaks all the rules of regular physics, bioenergetics make you feel completely different in your body [two wins for Mind-Body therapy], and meditation literally changes your brain.)

Anyways, back to Alan. So the main emphasis of his short seminar (unfortunately, I came a bit late and also was on sleep deprivation mode) was that there is a subtle tug that can be felt within the science world that different disciplines are slowly coming to a peak in the brain. Philosophy, quantum physics, religion, and now literature. The idea that a literary historian could give input to a scientific research project seems ludicrous. But I know in my gut that it’s the way to go. But how can we evolve the research lab to involve multiple disciplines? How can we justify it to the science authorities? How will it be applicable and useful? Who’s going to have the balls (to put it frankly) to pursue this?

On my to do list (so guilty, I know) is reading John Lehrer’s book “Proust Was a Neuroscientist”. To quote from a book review written by Dennis Patrick Slattery called “Pathway to a New Mythology” (sorry for the aggressive quoting!):

“What continues to intrigue me about the entire field of neuroscience is how the act of learning continues to transform the brain, creating new neural pathways into memory, perception, understanding, emotional maturation, and speech centers, such that one senses no split between mind and body, but rather that the brain is an embodied entity and that the entirety of a human being is one unified phenomenon.[oh hey Dao of Neuroscience]

… 

Neuroscience and the artists who exposed its secrets earlier are reinventing memory and imagining along new lines of exploration. Studies in psychology, mythology, and the humanities generally cannot afford to ignore the work in this field.

Lehrer draws the analogy of Proust’s discovery that “our memories are not like fiction. They are fiction” (88). What Proust grasped was that memories do not create fabrications of earlier realities; rather, they embody the fictions of earlier events, making of them part historical fact and part fictional cloth. 

One of the most provocative chapters in Lehrer’s study considers the imaginal writing of Virginia Woolf. Her own belief that, as Lehrer paraphrases it, “certain elements of consciousness were constant and universal” suggests her recognition of the archetypal realm and of the patterned propensity of psyche (2008, 193). Coherence and wholeness were what consciousness sought as it gathered the fragments of experience and placed them in an order of formed coherence.  

My favorite part of the article:

Neurons are distributed all across the brain, and their firing unfolds over time. [Fourth dimension ahhhh] This means “the mind is not a place: it is a process” (Lehrer 2008, 177). After a certain point of exploring the organ of the brain and its firings, it becomes impossible to identify and hold the brain’s processing as mind. [This is how I feel about my creativity research – so jaded. More on this later.] As such, the brain is able to be both matter and energy at the same time. The excitement of neuroscientific discoveries is that what the brain is and how it functions is continually being reframed along different story lines; its plot continues to unfold with further episodes that change its narrative structure as it exposes patterned grooves that were invisible earlier: “Modern neuroscience is now confirming the self Woolf believed in. We invent ourselves out of our own sensations” (Lehrer 2008, 182). “

In other news: had a work interview yesterday @ Clover Food Labs. I love the place and their food and had a blast during the one hour I was there making chickpea sandwiches. I got accepted to work there so I’m super pumped. This is me pre-work when we held a Clover Workshop at a Mindfulness/Wellbeing Conference I put on last weekend (“Brain Break 2.0”). As you can see, my eagerness to chop beets confirms the foodie addict still lies within me. She was just dormant for a while:

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Filed under food, food trucks, mind-body therapy, neuroscience

raw sugar raw thought

A random thought splurge on meditation & chocolate…

RECENT CHOCOLATES TO RAVE AND RATE:

Ah, yes. The chocolatier has returned. Don’t worry, I’ve been doing the dirty deed undercover at Harvard.

Harvard also hosted a mindfulness meditation program called “Wake Up” last weekend. Unfortunately, I was too tired to participate in the entire day’s activities (deep relaxation meditation = invitation to sleep), but I enjoyed hearing about the five pillars of meditation at their initial lecture.

What they’re about (taken from their website):

Wake Up – Young Buddhists and non-Buddhists for a Healthy and Compassionate Society, is a world-wide network of young people practising the living art of mindfulness. We share a determination to live in an awakened way, taking a 21st Century version of the 5 Mindfulness Trainings as our path and guiding light.
The Wake Up network has grown out of Plum Village meditation centrein SW France, under the guidance of Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Plum Village has been offering retreats to young people for over two decades, and the Wake Up movement was formally launched in Summer 2008.

第一:Confidence

We know that our minds race all the time, worrying or regretting about the past, predicting or practicing the future. It’s hard to have the confidence to let go of thinking and to be fully in the present moment. What a weird thought, right?

One monk said the simplest thing to do was to begin with three breaths that you paid full attention to. The moment your mind wanders off about something else, start again. It helps to breathe in and out on focus words if it helps. My personal favorite is breathe in on trust, and breathe out on doubt (as if I was breathing out any emotions of doubt). It helps a lot when I’m worrying about the outcome of something, and I just do that simple 3-breath trick to remind myself to trust that at that moment, the right words/actions will come along with emotional calmness.

Confidence is awesome for promoting a product as well. Take the founders of Komforte Chockolates, who acknowledge in their about section  that “they debated the intelligence of starting a new small business in the midst of the worst recession of our lifetimes. It didn’t occur to us that we had a huge learning curve ahead of us. We took to the kitchen and began often times frightening rounds of experimentation mixing our favorite snacks with premium chocolate until we hit upon something undeniably good.” 

But hey, look how they didn’t obsess ahead to the potential “huge learning curve” they were to face. They were instead trusting their passion and desire to mix their favorite tastes to guide them forward in the competitive world of chocolates.

I tried their Tortilla Lime & Salt Chocolate Bar – I have to say, one of the best bars I’ve had since I’ve been back at school. Although I am not a huge milk chocolate fan, I was pleasantly delighted by the spin of the lime and the crunch of tortilla. And obviously the salt was bomb with chocolate – can’t resist that sweet and salty combo. Whenever I handed out samples of Sriracha Chili chocolate for Socola Chocolatier, I always promoted it as “an adventure in your mouth”. Well, I’d probably describe this bar as “a trip in your mouth”, what with the zangy crispy lime waiting to burst in an explosion of lucid green on your palette, followed by a soothing, curved sensation of the milk chocolate (great quality too, fyi).

第二:Right Diligence

Okay so I’ll admit the first thing I thought of when I heard this one was Asian Tiger mom. Obviously that wasn’t quite what they were going for.

In fact, this type of diligence is the opposite. It’s tender and gentle. The example given was cultivating a garden and showing love to the good seeds as well as the bad seeds. For the good seeds, you show love by cultivating them and focusing on them. For the bad seeds, instead of hating on them and trying to either ignore or destroy, you simply invite them to gently go to sleep.

I hope by now you’ve figured out seeds are your thoughts (surprise). The very foundation of mindfulness meditation is to sit, focus on your breath, and notice what thoughts arise. Rather than push any of them away, simply observe and stay detached. Almost as if you’re watching a television screen, or clouds, or a river.

The diligence required isn’t hardcore meditating 10 hours a day. It is simply being mindful of the thoughts that arise in your mind throughout the day – when you brush your teeth, eat, take a walk…cultivate the good thoughts and gently watch the bad ones rise and fall (a la Craig David).

第三:Awareness

This plays into the previous pillar – being aware of what sort of thoughts arise. My mind-body therapist (more on that later) helped me with this by asking me to notice that the thoughts that arise in my head belong to a “part of me”, and are not “all of me” nor are they not part of me at all. We’ve already distinguished things like the judger, the baby Kelly, the worrier, the hoper, the protector, the achiever.

It helps to distinguish the voices and also to use my right brain to visualize where in my body or presence they are (i.e. I always feel like the judger is to my left side and slightly behind me, while baby Kelly is nestled in my lower right ribcage). It’s kind of cool, because now I can distinguish how I become engulfed by different emotions via my thoughts in situations. Kind of like watching a bunch of TV screens.

Anyways, like I said before about bad/good seeds – you gotta show some love to all your parts. There’s a reason that these “thought voices” are neurologically built into your body. In order to alter set patterns, you have to be your own mother/father and embrace the inner child or whatever is going on in there. Smile to it, nourish it with positive thinking, focus on it. Also notice the relationships of the constitutive parts (baby Kelly is terrified right now and the judger is berating her for being so weak).

On the topic of parts, I have to bring up Vosges Chocolate. Her diversity in bars is overwhelmingly awesome, and her strength is bringing in distinct parts together to create a wholesome experience. Some of my personal faves (with her descriptions because I love them):

Black Pearl Exotic Candy Bar: “Inhale warming ginger as menthol-nuanced wasabi cools. Sense the evolution of flavors in the mouth. Commence with ginger, followed by earthy cacao notes, mellow wasabi reminiscent of coriander, finishing with black sesame seeds, rich in nutty texture.” 


Gingerbread Toffee Bar: “The scent of classic gingerbread spices will have you dreaming of snow dusted pine trees in no time. We begin with the same melt-in-your-mouth, burnt sugar and butter toffee and add a touch of ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, Grenadian nutmeg and Jamaican allspice to put you in a holiday frame of mind. A generous coating of dark chocolate completes the affair on your palate. “

第四:Right Concentration

This one is simple. The right concentration brings you happiness and joy by being aware of the present moment, while false concentration is focusing hard as well, but brings you dissatisfaction and false perceptions (i.e. looking at a magazine filled with photoshopped models and drowning oneself in it).

What else has the right concentration? Chuao Chocolatier Earl Grey Milk Chocolate Bar. Granted, another milk chocolate friend (not as high quality as Komforte Chockolates). I would have preferred dark, but for what it was I approve. The concentration of Earl Grey was just right – not too overpowering and allowed room for imagination (yes I am staring directly into an Englishman’s eyes sipping some tea and chewing on crumpets), but had enough swirl to make a profound statement.

第五:Insight

This last one was both surprising and interesting to me, since creativity is part of my neuroscience research (the hypothesis that meditation lends the mind to a brainset that allows for easier connections be made –> insight!!).

The monk who opened up about his thoughts on insight reviewed the garden concept. He talked about how once someone cultivates a good garden, he or she develops a vital skillset that leads to insight. In understanding our condition and how to transforming suffering into peace, calm, and happiness, one can create a space for insight to come about. Well hello senior thesis.

I love that New Tree operates their mailing list on the basis that we want to hear more about their chocolate innovations. That’s just too cute. Oh, stop it.

Two flavors that I nearly died when I tried them were ginger (#intriguing) and thyme (#ohmygodwhatisthisbecausethisisbrilliant). I’ve always loved ginger in stuff, but the fact that they combined thyme, a little bit of flax seeds, and dark chocolate = WIN WIN WIN. What a lush creation that I couldn’t stop eating.

Ginger is sexy, apparently.

Okay the meditating chocolatier is out.

“Buddhism needs to be recognized as a source of wisdom, a long tradition of practice of understanding and love and not just of devotion. The spirit of Dharma is very close to the spirit of Science; both help us cultivate an open an non-discriminating mind. You can join the Wake up Movement as a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, an agonist or an atheist. The practice of maitri, of loving kindness, the practice of sisterhood and brotherhood, is at the foundation of the Dharma.”

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Filed under chocolate, creativity, food, harvard, senses, spiritual